I’m sure that most painters have, at some point, neglected to wash a brush straight away, or perhaps not rinsed it thoroughly enough after finishing a painting. When this happens, you end up with a poor, sad brush, with all its hairs looking ratty and stuck together and unable to keep a fine point. Often the artist will think they have no other option than to throw the brush away and buy a new one.
Though it’s possible the brush is too far gone to be saved, you’ve got a pretty good shot at giving it a second chance if you have some of The Masters’ Brush Cleaner and Preserver, made by General Pencil Co. Inside the small container you’ll find a cake of what feels like gritty soap (similar to Solvol but a lot less harsh). Wetting the brush thoroughly with warm water and scrubbing it onto the soapy cake gives you a nice thick lather that can be worked through the bristles with your fingers before being rinsed clean. This may need to be repeated depending on how bad the brush’s condition is (and if it’s really bad, you may need to let the lather soak into it for a short time before rinsing), but soon the brush will be restored to a usable state again, and sometimes it will even look as good as new.
At about $8 for a 75 gram tub (which lasts for ages), it’s worth having one of these in your studio. Whether your a watercolourist, acrylic artist or oil painter, it could help you save a precious and expensive paint brush that you might otherwise have had to throw away or relegate to being used as a masking fluid or primer brush. Though watercolour is a lot less likely to damage your brushes than oil or acrylic if it’s not cleaned out, brushes can still be heavily stained by some watercolours (eg. phthalo colours), and Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver helps you give your brush a thorough clean. I would also suggest that you limit its use with natural hair brushes (especially squirrel) as the Brush Cleaner is slightly abrasive (for delicate brushes you could probably use normal hand soap) and could damage the hairs with repeated use, but synthetic or hog bristle brushes shouldn’t be bothered by it.
Obviously it’s better to try to wash your brushes thoroughly after you paint so their condition doesn’t deteriorate, but if you forget, at least there’s still hope for your brush.
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I recently read information someone posted with macro photos of what looked to be pumice left on bushes after washing with Masters soap. Thinking this could negatively affect my brushes over time, I have opted to move to Soysolv, a natural based liquid cleaner recommended by my painting instructor. It also dissolves hardened paint on brushes you may have forgotten to clean after a painting session.